The Ledes

Wednesday, July 29, 2015.

New York Times: "After months of speculation, Afghan officials announced Wednesday that they were now certain that the Taliban’s reclusive leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, died in Pakistan in 2013."

Guardian: "Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has approved the immediate construction of hundreds of settlement units in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in an effort to stave off a growing threat posed by pro-settler parties in his rightwing coalition government. The issue was brought to a head on Wednesday by a supreme court ruling that two buildings in the West Bank settlement of Beit El – built on private Palestinian land without permits – should be destroyed, despite Netanyahu’s opposition."

Washington Post: "An Albuquerque 911 dispatcher has resigned after audio was released of him hanging up on a 17-year-old as she tended to a friend who was shot at the party. The victim, 17-year-old Jaydon Chavez-Silver, later died.... Emergency responders had already been dispatched to the house before [the dispatcher] hung up." Includes 911 audio.

Minneapolis Star Tribune: "A big-game hunter from the Twin Cities found himself at the center of an international firestorm Tuesday over the death of a beloved lion in Zimbabwe, but said he regrets killing the animal and believed his guides were leading him on a legal hunt.... Earlier Tuesday, the Telegraph newspaper of London identified [dentist Walter] Palmer as the hunter who shot Cecil and reported that he paid $54,000 for the hunt. The Telegraph said the lion was illegally lured out of Hwange National Park, where it had protected status, and onto a neighboring game farm, where Palmer was on safari." ...

... Salon: Yelp contributors are whacking Palmer.

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, July 28, 2015.

Guardian: "Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of Libya’s former dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, has been sentenced to death by a court in Tripoli. Saif, once seen as his father’s heir apparent, was condemned to death along with eight other figures from the former dictatorship, including the former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi and Gaddafi’s last prime minister, Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi."

Reuters: "FIFA boss Sepp Blatter deserves a Nobel Prize for his stewardship of soccer's governing body, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview aired by Swiss broadcaster RTS on Monday."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: "A novel data-mining project reveals evidence that a common group of heartburn medications taken by more than 100 million people every year is associated with a greater risk of heart attacks, Stanford University researchers reported Wednesday."

AP: "Federal health advisers on Tuesday[, June 9,] recommended approval for a highly anticipated cholesterol drug from Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, but with the caveat that more data is needed about its long-term ability to reduce heart attacks. The expert panel recommended by a 13-3 vote that the Food and Drug Administration approve the injectable drug, called Praluent."

Washington Post (June 4): "The first-ever 'female Viagra' came one step closer to coming to market, as a key advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted Thursday afternoon to recommend that the FDA approve the drug with conditions. The committee voted 18-6 to recommend that the FDA approve flibanserin, a drug designed to boost the low sexual desire of otherwise healthy women."

White House Live Video
July 29

1:00 pm ET: Press briefing by Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz

Go to


Fuck off! I’m done with you. -- Jon Stewart, to Wyatt Cenac

... Alex Jung of New York: Jon Stewart repeatedly yelled at Wyatt Cenac when Cenac questioned a "Daily Show" segment meant to be a defense against Fox "News" allegations that Stewart's Herman Cain imitation was racist. ...

... Maron's WTF podcast of his interview with Cenac is here. ...

... CW: Here's the thing, black people. When you confront white liberals with accusations of racial bias, WE WILL NEVER ADMIT IT. We will remind you that we have been fighting for black civil rights for 50 years (Bernie Sanders). We will tell you all lives matter (Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley). We will tell you that white people are responsible for expanding your rights (Hillary Clinton). We will deny your accusations (Every one of us). And all the while, we will be highly insulted, even if we don't tell you to fuck off. Because white people's feelings matter. And, after all we've done, we can't believe you would accuse us of racism.

Even when they're only lip-syncing, some entertainers are pretty damned talented. I'm not much of a fan of Tom Cruise's, but ...

Tech Crunch: "It’s no secret that Google+ didn’t quite work out the way Google envisioned and now, after already moving Google Photos out of the service, it’s starting to decouple Google+ profiles from its regular Google accounts."

Stupid Pet Tricks, Reptile Edition:

Lloyd Grove of the Daily Beast: NBC News Chairman Andy Lack is replacing MSNBC's Ed Schultz with -- Chuck Todd. [CW: Excellent decision! Let's change "MSNBC" to "VPN" -- "Village People's Network."] "The only programs that appeared safe from disruption were Morning Joe..., hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski; Hardball ... with Chris Matthews; and The Rachel Maddow Show at 9 p.m. Those programs have performed respectably...." ...

We live in a time when much of the corporate media regards politics as a baseball game or a soap opera. Ed Schultz has treated the American people with respect by focusing on the most important issues impacting their lives.... I am very disappointed that Comcast [the parent company of NBC & MSNBC] chose to remove Ed Schultz from its lineup. We need more people who talk about the real issues facing our country, not fewer.... At a time when a handful of large, multi-national corporations own our major media outlets, I hope they will allow voices to be heard from those who dissent from the corporate agenda. -- Sen. Bernie Sanders

Washington Post: "The latest update from NASA's Kepler space telescope — designed to spot distant exoplanets — adds more than 500 new possible planets to the fray. That's in addition to the 4,175 planets already found by Kepler. And of those 500 new potential planets, scientists say, a dozen could be remarkably Earth-like. That means they're less than twice as large as Earth, are potentially rocky and are at the right distance from their host stars to harbor liquid water." ...

... Guardian: "Scientists on the hunt for extraterrestrial life have discovered 'the closest twin to Earth' outside the solar system, Nasa announced on Thursday."

Worst Person Ratings in the World. Andrew Kirell of Mediaite: Rumors are a'flyin' that MSNBC is headed for another line-up shake-up, which could include the Return of Dr. Olbermann, who is departing ESPN -- again. Because their third place in cable ratings wasn't as bad as their third place is now (sometimes 4th, behind Al Jazeera). And because the New Olbermann is now a suits-licking pussycat, unlike the Old Olbermann from way last week.

Some Would Be Heroes. Washington Post: Coast Guardsman Darren Harrity swims a mile in choppy, fuel-slicked sea to save four men in a leaky lifeboat.

New York Times: "What Pet Should I Get?" -- an aide to Dr. Suess's widow found the manuscript in a box. Dr. Suess -- Theodore Geisel -- died in 1991.

     ... Via BuzzFeed, for the fun of it.

Washington Post: "On Monday, famed physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian tycoon Yuri Milner held a news conference in London to announce their new project: injecting $100 million and a whole lot of brain power into the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life, an endeavor they're calling Breakthrough Listen." ...

... CW: What a waste. You know all they'll find is angels hovering around a pantheon of some sort & maybe, if they're lucky, their long-dead pooches floating around Pet Heaven, which is real & wonderful.

New York Times: "In a pair of legal filings on Friday, two nuns who object to [singer Katy] Perry’s proposed purchase of their order’s convent on eight acres [in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles] disclosed an email describing any sale to the saucy pop singer as a breach of their sacred vows.... The court papers include claims by several of five surviving nuns in the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary that the archdiocese is betraying them and bullying them into supporting a sale other than their preferred transaction with [another buyer]."

NASA: "In the latest data from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, a new close-up image of Pluto reveals a vast, craterless plain that appears to be no more than 100 million years old, and is possibly still being shaped by geologic processes. This frozen region is north of Pluto’s icy mountains, in the center-left of the heart feature, informally named 'Tombaugh Regio' (Tombaugh Region) after Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930."

Hill: "President Obama is making a final 'Daily Show' appearance before host Jon Stewart leaves the political comedy program after 17 years. Obama will sit down for his final chat with Stewart on Tuesday, the White House confirmed Friday."

For an actual feel-good moment, Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post tells the story of 16-year-old small-plane crash survivor Autumn Veatch. Veatch, who was injured in the crash that killed her grandparents, walked untold mild through rough terrain until she came to a public road & parking area.

Washington Post: "Nearly two months after a molestation scandal prompted TLC to pull reruns of the popular reality program '19 Kids and Counting' from the air and online, the network announced that it has officially canceled the program."

Washington Post: "Filmmaker George Lucas, singer-songwriter Carole King and dancer-actress Rita Moreno are among an unprecedented six honorees to be saluted at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors. Seventies rockers the Eagles, actress Cicely Tyson and conductor Seiji Ozawa will also be honored at the Dec. 6 event, Kennedy Center officials said Wednesday. A major fundraiser for the arts center, the gala celebration will be televised on CBS on Dec. 29."

Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker reviews Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman. ...

... Laura Marsh of the New Republic: "Scolars have been pointing out Atticus Finch's racism for years."

New York Times (July 15): "It was the last day of business at F. A. O. Schwarz on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan."

New York Times: "A day after its successful flyby, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sent back the first close-up photographs of Pluto, revealing a young surface dotted with ice mountains. The piano-size spacecraft traveled nine years and three billion miles to study the dwarf planet and its five moons." Includes one close-up photo from 25 miles out. More on NASA's site.

New York (July 14): "We're halfway through July, but until this morning, there was still snow on the ground in Boston. The last of the city's historic snowfall, a disgusting frozen mass of dirt, snow, and trash, was officially pronounced melted this morning"."

Here are time-lapse photos of the long melt:

Sean Hollister of Gizmodo: "The Mozilla Firefox web browser now blocks Flash by default. And when I say “blocks,” I don’t mean it asks you nicely if you’d really like to use Flash. I don’t mean it automatically pauses Flash videos like Google Chrome. I mean Mozilla has decided that Flash is going down.... Why such a hard-on for Flash? Why now? Well, it could be that the world just rediscovered just how prone Flash is to nasty, nasty vulnerabilities. When the Hacking Team — an Italian security company that sold intrusive spy tools — got hacked, one of those tools got out into the wild. A nasty hole in Flash that Adobe has yet to patch.... It’s probably worth noting that [Monday July 13], Mozilla’s Facebook’s chief security officer publicly asked Adobe to kill off Flash once and for all.... Update: Adobe has already released a newer version of Flash,, which Firefox doesn’t block by default. You’ll want to manually download it."

Contributor Nisky Guy takes us back in time to February 2006, when Lewis Black complained, "I can't wait that long":

Washington Post: "On its approach to Pluto, the spacecraft [New Horizons] obtained the most arresting image yet of the dwarf planet. Pluto is not a bland and featureless ball of ice, but rather a complex, variegated, mottled world with broad snowfields, structures that look like cliffs or fault lines, and a strikingly bright heart-shaped area that could be the eroded remnant of a giant impact crater."

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The Commentariat -- March 7, 2013

David Horsey of the Los Angeles Times: "The president personally picked up the tab for [a] private dinner at the Jefferson Hotel, and the guests were all Republican senators, including John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Dan Coats (Ind.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), John Hoeven (N.D.) and Saxby Chambliss (Ga.). Coming out of the hotel after the two-hour meal, the senators had nothing but nice things to say about the gathering," although the meal got off to a rocky start when Toomey & Johnson proposed filibustering the appetizer course (clause after the end-quote may be inaccurate). ...

... Julie Pace of the AP: "A White House official says President Barack Obama has invited Rep. Paul Ryan for lunch at the White House Thursday.... The official requested anonymity in order to" avoid answering questions about why the President could not stomach sitting down to a full dinner with the former vice presidential candidate & ideological granny-starver, as he did with Republican Senators (part after the end-quote may be fanciful). ...

... Charles Pierce: "... there is simply nothing that the zombie-eyed granny-starver could propose that should be treated by any Democratic president any differently than a free introductory case of the mange.... He wants to demolish the social-welfare component of the government because he considers it philosophically illegitimate. He wants to establish an oligarchical system, not because it will profit him personally, although it will, but because he considers it the natural order of democracy. In every sense of the word, he is an extremist, the Louie Gohmert of economic policy. The president slapped him down to his face in an episode aboyt which Republicans have not yet stopped whining. Inviting him back into the discussion can do nothing but make you wonder how securely the fix already is in." ...

... Rosalind Helderman & Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "The House took its first step to avert a government shutdown on Wednesday as President Obama began a series of rare meetings with Republican lawmakers, reviving chances for a long-term deal to reduce the federal deficit.... The House approved a six-month spending bill that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year. The measure passed 267 to 151, with most Republicans supporting it and most Democrats voting against it. The stopgap measure would provide $982 billion.... But it would lock in the across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester for the rest of the fiscal year. The bill will now head to the Senate, where Democrats are likely to seek amendments that would help blunt the effects of domestic spending cuts that began last week. But there is bipartisan optimism that a final version of the measure will clear Congress by the end of the month." ...

... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "House Republicans will preserve Medicare cuts that their presidential nominee loudly denounced last year and accept tax increases they sternly opposed just months ago in a new tax-and-spending blueprint that would bring the federal budget into balance by 2023, senior Republicans said Wednesday. But the politically charged proposal, which emerged as the House easily passed legislation to keep the government financed through Sept. 30, is not expected to include workers currently 55 and over in major changes recommended for Medicare, after more moderate Republicans objected." ...

... E. J. Dionne: a "significant number of Republicans in the Senate -- possibly as many 20 -- who think what's going [re: the federal budget] on is foolish and counterproductive. The White House is betting that enough GOP senators are prepared to make a deal along lines that President Obama has already put forward."

Felicia Sonmez of the Washington Post: "Senate Republicans on Tuesday filibustered the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, blocking a nominee tapped last year by President Obama to serve on one of the country's most powerful courts. Tuesday's final roll call vote on cutting off debate was 54 to 45. One Republican -- Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) -- joined all 53 members of the Democratic caucus in voting to move ahead with Halligan's nomination, leaving the former New York state solicitor general six votes short of the 60 votes necessary for ending debate." ...

I am deeply disappointed that despite support from a majority of the United States Senate, a minority of Senators continues to block the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Nearly two and a half years after being nominated, Ms. Halligan continues to wait for a simple up-or-down vote. In the past, filibusters of judicial nominations required 'extraordinary circumstances,' and a Republican Senator who was part of this agreement articulated that only an ethics or qualification issue -- not ideology -- would qualify. -- President Obama (read the whole statement)

Duh. I hate to suggest this, but if this is an indication of where we’re headed, we need to revisit the rules again. We need to go back to it again. I'm sorry to say it because I was hopeful that a bipartisan approach to dealing with these issues would work. -- Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Majority Whip ...

... Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "On Wednesday, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) engaged in a marathon filibuster of John Brennan, Obama's nominee to head the CIA, protesting the administration's policy on the use of drones in lethal operations. Paul began speaking at noon and was still filibustering six hours later." CW: I checked at 9:15 pm ET Wednesday, & earlier. Other Senators are helping Paul. John Barrasso (RTP-Wy.) was speaking. ...

     ... Update. Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "A small group of Republicans, led by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, stalled the Senate on Wednesday by waging a nearly 13-hour old-school, speak-until-you-can-speak-no-more filibuster over the government's use of lethal drone strikes -- forcing the Senate to delay the expected confirmation of John O. Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.... Mr. Paul finally wound down shortly before 1 a.m. on Thursday, surrounded by a group of Republican senators and House members who had joined him on the Senate floor in a show of solidarity.

... ** Steve Benen has a rundown of how Senate Republicans have responded to the "filibuster reform" Harry Reid & Mitch McConnell agreed on a few months ago. It's shocking, if not surprising. ...

... ** Gail Collins has some excellent commentary, contrasting Rand Paul's filibuster with Mitch McConnell's paper filibuster. ...

... Greg Sargent: "The very fact that Paul's filibuster (one built on genuine convictions surrounding real issues that were fully aired in public) was treated as so extraordinary is a reminder of the degree to which we've accepted nonstop secret filibustering (which has become nothing more than a tool for partisan across-the-board obstructionism) as entirely ordinary."

Obama 2.0. Another Fox. Same Hen House. Peter Lattman & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "Andrew J. Ceresney, who served as [S.E.C. nominee Mary Jo] White's lieutenant as both a defense lawyer and as a federal prosecutor in Manhattan, is a leading candidate to ultimately become her enforcement chief at the Securities and Exchange Commission.... A Washington outsider and relative unknown beyond legal circles, Mr. Ceresney would help set the tone for policing financial fraud, effectively making him a top cop on Wall Street.... At the S.E.C., Mr. Ceresney, 41, would have to police some of the same firms he spent a decade defending."

Ed O'Keefe & Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "Continued disagreements over whether to keep records of private gun sales prompted Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to move ahead Wednesday without the support of the Democrats and Republicans he's been meeting with for weeks in hopes of striking a deal to expand the national background check system, with limited exceptions. Schumer said he will reintroduce a proposal mandating background checks on all gun sales, private or commercial, on Thursday at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing." ...

Silence of the Lambs. Reid Epstein of Politico: "President Barack Obama’s gun control agenda is looking more doomed by the day, but gun control advocates still haven't said a word to complain. That's no accident. The White House knew its post-Newtown effort would require bringing key gun control groups into the fold. So the White House offered a simple arrangement: the groups could have access and involvement, but they'd have to offer silence and support in exchange. The implied rules, according to conversations with many of those involved: No infighting. No second-guessing in the press. Support whatever the president and Vice President Joe Biden propose. And most of all, don't make waves or get ahead of the White House." ...

... ** Dave Gilson of Mother Jones answers the NRA's Crazy Arguments for Guns. Or, how to answer your gun-happy buddies when they spout "proofs" that guns make us all safer.

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones on dumb reporting about the federal budget, etc.

Jeb (Not His Real Name)
Is Supposed to Be the Smart Bush

... as I understand it, three or four years from now, the deal is that the fed match [for Medicaid] goes from 95 back to what it is now, which is about 55 in Florida. -- Jeb (Not His Real Name) Bush, on CNN

... as everybody else understands it, "the federal government covers 100% of the cost of the expansion during the first three years and gradually reduces its contribution to 90 percent in 2020 and beyond.... In his new book, Bush offered up a different reason to oppose the expansion, calling it "welfare" for the children of illegal immigrants. -- Pema Levy of TPM

Jeb Bush was a two-term governor of a large state with a large Medicaid population. Medicaid represented the second-largest item in the state budget..., and far and away the largest federal program directly affecting Florida's budget.... I don't think Jeb Bush deserves to be cut any slack for so fundamentally misunderstanding the financial terms of the Medicaid expansion. It's like a Nepalese mountain-climber missing Mount Everest. -- Ed Kilgore

Jonathan Chait: "If you have never seen Fox News before, here is a four-minute clip that captures the essence of the network so perfectly that you need never watch anything on it again. It's all here. At the center, you have an old conservative white guy who is enraged about a fact that exists only in his addled brain. At his side, there's a blonde sidekick who nods along with him but doesn't get in the way. And ready to absorb his anger is the network's Emmanuel Goldstein figure, feebly attempting a rebuttal that quickly devolves into a sniveling plea for civility:"

"Upgrade of Die." George Packer of the New Yorker tells a tale of two countries.

Contrary to what she told Terry Gross, Sandra Day O'Connor admits to Jon Stewart that she did have a few regrets about some of her Court decisions:

Local News

Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "Arkansas adopted what is by far the country's most restrictive ban on abortion on Wednesday -- at 12 weeks of pregnancy, when a fetal heartbeat can typically be detected by abdominal ultrasound. The law, the sharpest challenge yet to Roe v. Wade, was passed by the newly Republican-controlled legislature over the veto of Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, who called it 'blatantly unconstitutional.' The State Senate voted Tuesday to override his veto and the House followed suit on Wednesday, with several Democrats joining the Republican majority. The law contradicts the limit established by Supreme Court decisions, which give women a right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks into pregnancy, and abortion rights groups promised a quick lawsuit to block it."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "The U.N. Security Council took direct aim at North Korea's leadership Thursday with new sanctions targeting cash transfers and luxury items, punishing the reclusive regime for its latest nuclear test while evoking a fresh torrent of threats from the North Korean capital. The sanctions, drafted by the United States and China and approved unanimously, were adopted against a backdrop of apocalyptic rhetoric from Pyongyang, including a threat to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against foreign 'aggressors,' a term traditionally interpreted to include the United States."

Washington Post: "A former spokesman for al-Qaeda and son-in-law of its founder, Osama bin Laden, was captured overseas and secretly brought to New York this month to face a criminal trial for allegedly conspiring to kill Americans, U.S. officials said Thursday. Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was initially detained in Turkey last month but was taken into U.S. custody in Jordan while he was being deported to Kuwait, U.S. officials said. He is expected to appear in federal court Friday in the Southern District of New York."

Bloomberg News: "... the number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits fell to a six- week low, showing further improvement in the labor market."

Reuters: "An Italian court sentenced ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday to one year in jail over the publication by his family's newspaper of a transcript of a leaked wiretap connected to a banking scandal in 2006. Italian justice system rules mean that the 76-year-old media billionaire would not have to serve any jail time until the appeals process has been exhausted, and a higher court may still overturn the ruling."

AP: "North Korea vowed on Thursday to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States, amplifying its threatening rhetoric hours ahead of a vote by U.N. diplomats on whether to level new sanctions against Pyongyang for its recent nuclear test."

Reuters: "Safety regulators are poised to approve within days a plan to allow Boeing Co to begin flight tests of the 787 Dreamliner with a fix for its volatile batteries, a critical step towards returning the grounded aircraft to service, two sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday."


The Commentariat -- March 6, 2013

Obama 2.0 Richard Lardner of the AP: "The Senate Intelligence Committee voted Tuesday to approve [John Brennan,] President Barack Obama's pick to lead the CIA, after winning a behind-the-scenes battle with the White House over access to a series of top-secret legal opinions that justify the use of lethal drone strikes against terror suspects, including American citizens." ...

... Greg Miller has the story for the Washington Post. ...

... Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "Yes, the president does have the authority to use military force against American citizens on US soil — but only in 'an extraordinary circumstance,' Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday. 'The US Attorney General's refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening,' Paul said Tuesday. 'It is an affront the constitutional due process rights of all Americans.'" ...

... Digby: "This case is something a 5th grader could answer: anyone on American soil is subject to the US Constitution which guarantees them due process." ...

... "The Most Powerful Federal Agency You've Never Heard of." Ben Goad of The Hill: "Time is running out for President Obama to make one of his most influential appointments: a regulatory chief who will serve as the gatekeeper for an avalanche of new rules from federal agencies. With Congress mired in partisanship, Obama is expected to lean heavily on the use of executive power to enact his agenda. At the same time, scores of new rules are now under consideration at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the White House's clearinghouse for federal mandates."

Matt Spetalnick of the AP: "While the death of Venezuela's stridently anti-American President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday raised hopes in Washington for better U.S.-Venezuela relations, the Obama administration reacted cautiously as it weighed the prospects for a diplomatic thaw. President Barack Obama quickly reached out to Venezuelans, expressing an interest in a 'constructive relationship' in the post-Chavez era."

Jackie Calmes & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "With Republican leaders in Congress forswearing budget negotiations over new revenues, President Obama has begun reaching around them to Republican lawmakers with a history of willingness to cut bipartisan deals. Mr. Obama has invited about a dozen Republican senators out to dinner on Wednesday night, after speaking with several of them by phone in recent days.... And next week, according to those people and others who did not want to be identified, he will make a rare foray to Capitol Hill to meet separately with the Republican and Democratic caucuses in both the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House."

Debbie Wilgoren & Ashley Halsey of the Washington Post: "Schools and many government offices in the Washington area closed for the day on Wednesday as snow began to blanket the region, the first wave of a storm that forecasters said could dump five to 10 inches inside the Capital Beltway and significantly more to the north and west." ...

... Which Is Why This Is So Brilliant.... Ed O'Keefe & Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "Bowing to Mother Nature, the House will vote on a plan to continue funding the federal government through the end of the fiscal year on Wednesday -- one day earlier than initially scheduled.... Senior Senate aides noted that the worst portion of the storm is likely to come Wednesday morning and afternoon, making it plausible that the safer decision would be to postpone Wednesday's planned vote on a controversial judicial nomination until Thursday." Who do you think is smarter? -- John Boehner or Harry Reid?

David Espo of the AP: "The Obama administration and congressional Republicans are quietly working in tandem to blunt the impact of short-term spending cuts that kicked in with dire White House warnings a few days ago, with both sides eager to pocket the full savings for deficit reduction as they pivot to a new clash over Medicare." ...

... Meanwhile, the White House Website is prominently featuring President Obama's "Balanced Plan to Avert the Sequester and Reduce the Deficit."

Reuters: "Less than two months into his second term, President Barack Obama's approval rating has dropped and Americans blame him and his fellow Democrats almost as much as his Republican opponents for a fiscal mess." CW: thank you, news media, with special kudos to Bob Woodward & Bill Keller. ...

... AND the public now is in the GOP camp: 61 percent support the sequester, & 60 percent oppose cuts to the military, according to a new ABC News/WashPo poll. CW: The lesson here, IMHO, is that the public goes with the winner; when it looked as if Obama had the high ground, his numbers were up; when Republicans won the sequester battle, their agenda got the nod. It pays to win. ...

... Au Contraire, Greg Sargent argues, "Things suddenly change when you bring up specific government programs. Also, the poll doesn't offer respondents the option of choosing a mix between new revenues and cuts -- a position that has majority support in other polls -- which means it doesn't test the basic dispute at the center of the crisis." ...

... Steve Kornacki of Salon: "... we're probably stuck with the sequester for the rest of this fiscal year -- and maybe well beyond that. It's an outcome almost no one saw coming a year ago, and one made all the more remarkable by the fact that the most recent election seemed to represent a rebuke of the GOP and its embrace of Tea Party fiscal values."

Jake Sherman & Jonathan Allen of Politico: "Rep. Paul Ryan's budget is now expected to exempt seniors 55 years old and above from his Medicare overhaul -- despite his personal preference to raise that age to 56 -- according to several GOP sources familiar with his plans." CW: I love the way these Politico boys frame this story as one in which Ryan is looking for ways to "save Medicare." CW: Are they that stupid or are they on the take? Ryan had a change of heart (okay, inappropriate metaphor; that lying weasel has no heart) ...

... BECAUSE... Molly Hooper of The Hill: "House Republican centrists [were] furious that GOP leaders [were] considering abandoning their pledge not to change Medicare retirement benefits for people 55 years and older. According to several sources, a handful of centrist GOP lawmakers attending a recent Tuesday Group luncheon erupted when Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) broke the news." ...

... Bernie Becker of The Hill: "The new House GOP spending bill directs the U.S. Postal Service to deliver mail six days a week, against the wishes of the nation's postmaster general.... Congress has used the appropriations process to force USPS, which has lost billions of dollars in recent years, to continue Saturday delivery for roughly three decades."

... Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "... misleading GOP claims about Obama's behavior is only half the story. The Republicans are also mischaracterizing their own behavior. With this new budget, Ryan doesn't appear to be offering new concessions. On the contrary, it looks like he's making new demands."

** "Lipstick on an Elephant." Frank Rich on the GOP resuscitation plan, which of course involves stealing elections. "... real Republican leaders don't want any reinvention that ventures much beyond forced smiles; retooled, focus-­group-tested language (in English and Spanish); and blather about 'the kids.'"

Alex Pareene of Salon: "According to a working paper from two political scientists who interviewed 2,000 state legislative candidates last year, politicians all think Americans are more conservative than they actually are. Unsurprisingly, Republicans think voters are way more right-wing than they actually are.... Elected Republicans are more conservative than their constituents, but they think their constituents are basically all psycho Freepers."

Noam Scheiber of The New Republic on "The Boehnerian Way." Insightful, funny, maddening. Bear in mind, Boehner has to deal with this guy (and a lot more like him) ...

... Congrats to Louie Gohmert (RTP-Texas) for winning the title Sequester Jester of the Week. In response to a White House announcement "that it would halt public tours due to the sequester cuts," Gohmert proposed the following Amendment to the Continuing Resolution:

At the end of division C (before the short title), insert the following: SEC. ll. None of the funds made available by a division of this Act may be used to transport the President to or from a golf course until public tours of the White House resume. ...

... George Condon of the National Journal: Former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who's been out of jail for awhile, has written a book "packed with insider criticisms of some of Washington's biggest names of the past two decades. The targets for the longtime GOP officeholder are almost all fellow Republicans, including current House Speaker John Boehner; former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; the assistant attorney general who prosecuted him; Republican strategist Karl Rove; former President George W. Bush; former Vice President Dick Cheney; former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay; and Sen. John McCain." He accuses Boehner of doublecrossing him bigtime, & calls him "a chain-smoking, relentless wine drinker who was more interested in the high life -- golf, women, cigarettes, fun, and alcohol."

Lara Jakes of the AP: "Ten years and $60 billion in American taxpayer funds later, Iraq is still so unstable and broken that even its leaders question whether U.S. efforts to rebuild the war-torn nation were worth the cost. In his final report to Congress, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen's conclusion was all too clear: Since the invasion a decade ago this month, the U.S. has spent too much money in Iraq for too few results. The reconstruction effort 'grew to a size much larger than was ever anticipated,' Bowen told The Associated Press in a preview of his last audit of U.S. funds spent in Iraq, to be released Wednesday." ...

... Charles Pierce, commenting on the report: "George W. Bush should spend the rest of his days dogged by regiments of wounded veterans. Richard Cheney should be afflicted at all hours by the howls of widows and of mothers who have lost sons and daughters. Colin Powell -- and his pal, MSNBC star Lawrence Wilkerson -- should shut the hell up about how sorry they are and go off to a monastery somewhere to do penance for what they didn't have the balls to try and stop." ...

... Maureen Dowd gets a preview of a Showtime feature, "The World According to Dick Cheney." "The guy makes Al Haig look like a shrinking violet."

Tom Hamburger & Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "Some of the gun lobby's strongest allies are breaking with the National Rifle Association to support proposals that would expand background checks for private firearm sales.... The trade group for the nation's leading firearm manufacturers said it will not actively oppose the expansion of background checks, which are designed to prevent guns from reaching criminals or the seriously mentally ill."

Peter Wallsten & David Nakamura of the Washington Post notice Jeb (Not His Real Name) Bush is running for president.

What's the Matter with Sandra Day O'Connor? Here's the link to Terry Gross's interview of Justice O'Connor said. CW: I haven't listened to it, but the commenters to the NPR page here all agree with Reality Chex contributor Haley S. -- O'Connor was one "cranky old lady ... a painful performance." You might say she was Out of Order, the title of the book she's not-so-successfully pushing.

As contributor MAG wrote, Bill Keller's "response" to criticisms of his column is totally lame.

Roger Ailes, in his new book, excerpted in Vanity Fair: "Newt's a prick," & Obama is a lazy, B-ball-playin' Nee-gro. "He said so himself." Via Jillian Rayfield of Salon.

Rhonda Schwarz & Brian Ross of ABC News explain why they didn't carry the Bob Menendez-and-underaged-prostitutes story when it was presented to them & the Daily Caller in the week before the November election. ...

... As Erik Wemple of the Washington Post writes, "The ABC News story [linked above] isn't a game changer; it's a game ender." Case closed.

This Day in History. Scott Bomboy of the National Constitution Center: "On March 6, 1857, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Dred Scott case, which had a direct impact on the coming of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln's presidency four years later."

Local News

Lizette Alvarez of the New York Times portrays America's Worst Governor Rick Scott (RTP-Fla.) as a changed man with whom only the Tea Party is unhappy. CW: I would portray him as a con man.

Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa: "Seven Republicans in the Iowa House are pushing a bill to prohibit parents of minor children from getting a 'no fault' divorce and the proposal could be debated in a House committee this week.... Rachel Scott of the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence told lawmakers the changes proposed often make homes a more dangerous place.... All 50 states now have 'no-fault' laws allowing couples to divorce without citing evidence of wrong-doing from either spouse." Apparently one of the bill's sponsors, Tedd Gasbag Gassman, sees it as a way to embarrass his recently-divorced daughter & son-in-law, leaving the couple's 16-year-old daughter no choice but to become a slut. ...

... Oops! I see Kaili Joy Gray of Daily Kos already picked up on the slut thing. ...

... Steve M. of No More Mister Nice Blog: "I guess this is coming from that remade GOP I've heard so much about."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Insurgent fighters from Syria seized a group of United Nations troops on patrol in the disputed Golan Heights region between Syria and Israel on Wednesday and threatened to treat them as prisoners of war, an abrupt escalation in the Syrian conflict that entangled international peacekeepers for the first time."

Politico: "The number of anti-government groups in the United States is at an all-time high and has increased 800 percent since President Barack Obama took office, according to a Southern Poverty Law Center report. The SPLC identified 1,360 so-called patriot groups on the 'radical right' in 2012, compared with only 149 in 2008."

AP: "Airline passengers will be able to carry small knives, souvenir baseball bats, golf clubs and other sports equipment onto planes beginning next month under a policy change announced Tuesday by the head of the Transportation Security Administration. The new policy conforms U.S. security standards to international standards, and allows TSA to concentrate its energies on more serious safety threats, the agency said in a statement."

ABC News: "George Zimmerman's attorneys stunned court observers today by deciding to skip a 'Stand Your Ground' hearing slated for April that might have led to a dismissal of the charges in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin."

AP: "A senior U.S. envoy says Iran is committed to 'deception, defiance and delay' in how it deals with international concerns about its nuclear program. The hard-hitting comments by Joseph Macmanus to the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency reflect U.S. frustration over Iran's expanding uranium enrichment program and stalled attempts by the U.N.'s nuclear agency to probe suspicions that Tehran might have tried to develop nuclear weapons in secret."


The Commentariat -- March 5, 2013

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is titled "Bill Keller Doesn't Understand Junior High School Civics." ...

... Steve Benen has a great takedown of Keller. ...

... And another terrific one by Greg Sargent. ...

... ** Ryan Lizza has a very fine post in today's New Yorker on "The Powerless Presidency," which dovetails with the comments Benen, Sargent, et al., and I made re: Keller's -- and other Very Serious Pundits' -- view of the presidency.

President Obama made remarks before his first Cabinet meeting of his second term, held yesterday:

Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "A bill proposed by House Republicans on Monday to keep the government operating for the remainder of the fiscal year also would serve to mitigate some of the most striking impacts of the across-the-board spending cuts enacted last week. For instance, legislation would prohibit the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency from defunding beds in detention facilities where illegal immigrants are being held." ...

One of the last presidents to balance the budget was Herbert Hoover. -- Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.)

... ** Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: "Letting the sequester hit was just the first step in a pact forged in January between conservative leaders and Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to keep the government open and the nation out of default. Now comes step 2: adopting a budget plan that would wipe out deficits entirely by 2023. The strategy runs counter to warnings from prominent Republicans such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal against becoming 'the party of austerity.' ... [Some] GOP lawmakers ... fear the balanced-budget goal will force them to abandon a campaign pledge not to reduce Medicare benefits for those who are now 55 and older. 'I know a number of people who have real concerns about where this is going,' said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), who said Medicare cuts targeting people as old as 58 are under discussion." ...

... Jake Sherman & Jonathan Allen of Politico: in his new proposed budget, to be revealed to reporters tomorrow, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is still planning for his Medicare voucher system, but now he will apply it to people 56 & younger, rather than to just those 55 & younger. "In a sign of how far the party has drifted to the right: The Republican Study Committee -- the party's conservative bloc -- might not pen its own budget this year, as it customarily does."

Suzy Khimm of the Washington Post: "... the austerity the federal government has enacted has ... been a significant drag on short-term economic growth":

PolitiFact: John "Boehner said [Sunday on 'Meet the Press"] that the White House and Democrats in the Senate have no plan to replace the sequester. He's wrong on both counts. Obama has a proposal for replacing sequestration cuts with a mix of tax increases and spending cuts. And Senate Democrats have filed a sequester-replacement bill taking a similar approach." CW: I can picture Boehner running around with his pants on fire; I like to think I'm not a diabolical person, but the image of Boehner with his pants on fire makes me laugh. ...

... Steve Benen: "Education Secretary Arne Duncan and House Speaker John Boehner both recently appeared on Sunday shows, made claims that were not true, and got caught.... Duncan acknowledged that he'd made a mistake, apologized, and set the record straight.... Boehner's office actually doubled-down on the lie, saying the falsehood is true if Republicans are allowed to change the meaning of basic words.... If you ever have the impression that the two sides of the political divide are playing by a very different set of rules, it's not your imagination."

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Members of Congress will need to trim their office budgets by 8.2 percent as a result of the sequester, [Candice Miller {R-Mich.}] the chairwoman of the House Administration Committee said today.... Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) has announced that she will take an 8.4 percent monthly pay cut as a result of the sequester, in solidarity with others who are bearing the brunt of the cuts."

Alexander Bolton of The Hill: "A bipartisan group of senators has announced a deal to crack down on illegal trafficking and straw purchases of firearms.... Centrist Republican Sens. Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Susan Collins (Maine) have reached an agreement with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).... The bill strengthens the law prohibiting material false statements in connection with purchasing a firearm and strengthens penalties for purchasing a gun with intent to transfer it to someone involved in violent crime or drug trafficking."

Jackie Calmes & John Broder of the New York Times: "President Obama on Monday made three cabinet nominations -- for budget, energy and environmental policy — hours before his first cabinet meeting of his second term. Mr. Obama introduced Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the president of the Walmart Foundation in Arkansas and a familiar figure in the Democratic administration from her service in the Clinton administration, to be the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Ernest J. Moniz, the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Energy Initiative, is the president's choice to take over for Steven Chu at the Energy Department. And Gina McCarthy, the assistant administrator in charge of air and radiation at the Environmental Protection Agency, is the pick to replace the departing administrator, Lisa P. Jackson":

... John Broder & Matthew Wald of the Times: "Mr. Obama nominated Gina McCarthy, a tough-talking native of Boston and an experienced clean air regulator, to take charge at the Environmental Protection Agency, and Ernest J. Moniz, a physicist and strong advocate of natural gas and nuclear power as cleaner alternatives to coal, to run the Department of Energy. The appointments, which require Senate confirmation, send an unmistakable signal that the president intends to mount a multifaceted campaign in his second term to tackle climate change by using all the executive branch tools at his disposal."

Steve Kornacki of Salon on why Obama is dreaming if he thinks Democrats have a shot at regaining control of the House -- and, of course, retaining so-called "control" of the Senate in 2014. But all is not lost because there are signs Republicans are cracking on non-fiscal issues.

Jay Carney will continue to take George Will seriously:

Carol D. Leonnig & Ernesto Londoño of the Washington Post: "An escort who appeared on a video claiming that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) paid her for sex has told Dominican authorities that she was instead paid to make up the claims and has never met or seen the senator, according to court documents and two people briefed on her claim.... The videotaped claims of two women, made with their faces obscured, were posted on the conservative Web site the Daily Caller.... Daily Caller Editor Tucker Carlson did not reply to phone calls and e-mails requesting comment." CW: Tucker can dish it out, but he can't take it. ...

... UPDATE. Dylan Byers of Politico: "The Daily Caller is claiming that the Washington Post confused its prostitutes in a recent report about the sexual allegations against Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez." The DC also insisted Post reporters did not contact the blog before running with their story. ...

... UPDATE Update. Dylan Byers: "The Washington Post tells Politico it is standing by its latest report on an escort who had made sexual allegations against Sen. Robert Menendez, including reporter Carol Leonnig's claim that she reached out to the conservative news site The Daily Caller prior to publication of the piece."

"Looking back, there may have been signs it was a fake." -- Hunter of Daily Kos. (Pictured: James O'Keefe, appearing on Fox "News" in the supposed pimp outfit he wore to entrap ACORN workers.)

AND, Speaking of ACORN, an Elephant Never Forgets. ... Zach Carter of the Huffington Post: "A new short-term budget bill introduced on Monday by House Republicans includes a bizarre provision banning federal funding to anti-poverty group ACORN, despite the fact that the group has already been stripped of federal funding -- and has been defunct for nearly three years."

Paul Krugman & Joe Scarborough get into it on Charlie Rose's show. As P. D. Pepe mentions in today's Comments, Charlie -- true to form -- could not STFU. Here's a clip:

... Jack Mirkinson, writing in the Huffington Post, describes the end of the debate. Sounds to me as if Scarborough went to total rude mode ...,

... BUT on his blog, Krugman wrote, "I feel that I just had my Denver debate moment: I was tired, cranky, and unready for the blizzard of misleading factoids and diversionary stuff (In 1997 you said that the aging population was a big problem! When Social Security was founded life expectancy was only 62!) Oh, and I wasn't prepared for Joe Scarborough's slipperiness about what he actually advocates (he's for more spending in the near term? Who knew?)" ...

... Economist Alan Blinder, in Politico: "Scarborough ... argued in Politico that Krugman's view is extreme, dangerous, and ... shared by almost no one else.... Scarborough invoked me as being on his side of the debate — which was news to me.... While there may be some small differences between Krugman's position on reducing the deficit and my own, they are pretty small.... Furthermore, Krugman and I are not occupying some obscure corner of the policy debate, where only weirdos live. A large number of economists are on our side. Others, of course, are closer to the Scarborough camp. The more important question is the substantive issue of the day: Should we be going for more fiscal austerity right now, or not? Those of us who say 'not' urge you to consider some pertinent facts: the unemployment rate remains sky high; fiscal austerity has failed in Europe, where it is harming growth; the U.S. Treasury can still borrow at super-low interest rates; and we have already made serious progress on the ten-year budget problem."

How to Tell Jeb Bush Is Running for President. Benjy Sarlin of TPM: "After years of building a reputation as the 'good' Republican on immigration, Jeb Bush shocked the reform community on Monday by ruling out a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a position solidly to the right of prominent GOPers like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). The news stunned immigration activists and aides working on a bill and who have long insisted that anything short of citizenship is a dealbreaker for reform -- especially given that Bush was decisively in the pro-citizenship camp just months ago." ...

How to Tell Jeb Bush Is Running for President. Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Jeb Bush disagrees with his own book hours after it's published.... Bush (R) told MSNBC's Morning Joe on Tuesday that he would support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants 'if you can craft that in law where you can have a path to citizenship where there isn't an incentive for people to come illegally' -- a position that puts him at odds with his new book, out today from Simon & Schuster. In Immigration Wars, co-authored with immigration lawyer Clint Bolick, Bush a[r]gues that denying a path to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrations is 'absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences.'" CW: In a statement, Bush said he was going to show that amateur Mitt Romney how to winger-pander your way to the White House. He noted that the Bushes have a long history of doing it right. Also, he urged President Obama to do "one thing right" and deport Bobby Jindal. ...

... Beth Reinhard of the National Journal: "The stunning reversal by [Jeb Bush,] one of the Republican Party's leading champions of immigration reform and Hispanic outreach, at least in part, comes down to a colossal political miscalculation." ...

... Julie Lapidos of the New York Times has more. CW: at this point, I don't know WTF Bush's position on immigration reform is. Then again, neither does he. What's disturbing is that his book-selling & pandering & flip-flopping could have the effect of hurting millions of people living in this country -- but hey, who cares? Because It's All About Jeb (Not His Real Name).

Romney Is Still Lying. David Corn of Mother Jones: in his remarks to Chris Wallace Sunday, "Romney was playing the victim, claiming his 'unfortunate' comments had been 'twisted and distorted'.... All of Romney's defenses -- whether or not he was admitting wrong -- are undone by his own words.... Several ... GOP funders mentioned that they each had heard Romney make similar 47 percent-ish comments in private during the campaign. The response captured by my source at the Boca Raton fundraiser was not an outlier moment for Romney.... His ever-shifting and hollow explanations will mark him as a person who cannot take full responsibility for one of the most consequential statements he ever uttered."

The Washington Post drops its ombudsman forevah & substitutes -- maybe somebody else who maybe once in awhile will blog about something. Alyssa Rosenberg of Think Progress on why that isn't such a good idea.

Today In Pontif-EX

Forget the Shoes of the Fisherman. Henry Conway of the Guardian's fashion blog on ex Pope Benedict's legacy as a fashion maven: "My favourite item from his wardrobe is a short cape known as a mozzetta, the winter version of which is fur-lined, ermine-trimmed and made of crimson silk." Thanks to James S. for the link.

Right Wing World

Elspeth Reeve & Philip Bump of the Atlantic map out which conservatives are mad at other conservatives. it's a complicated chart, with explanatory notations.

Congressional Races

Jason Zengerle of New York magazine has a long piece on Mark Sanford's run for Congress. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Here's this man who grew up on a plantation and married an heiress, and then presided over a state that is a living monument to inequality, proudly championing the most churlish and self-righteous instincts of its privileged classes. But his new empathy still extends no further than people just like him." CW: Sanford & his fiancee would probably enjoy double-dating with the Romneys.

Alyssa Rosenberg of Think Progress: "... the Daily Caller, which has been trying to frame [actor Ashley] Judd's feminist beliefs as fringe, has launched the stupidest salvo against her at all: arguing that Judd, because she has done nude scenes for her work as an actress, 'has -- literally -- nothing left to show us.'"

Local News

"A Tale of Two Cities." Monica Davey of the New York Times: "Around the country, as businesses have recovered, the public sector has in many cases struggled and shrunk. Detroit may be the most extreme example of a city's dual fates, public and private, diverging.At times, the widening divide has been awkward, even tense. As private investors contemplated opening coffee bean roasters, urban gardening suppliers and fish farms, Detroit firefighters complained about shortages of equipment, suitable boots and even a dearth of toilet paper." CW: Yes, it is "awkward" to fight fires in sock feet. So when asswipes run the show, they forget to order asswipes?

Running Florida Like a Big Business. Carl Hiassen of the Miami Herald, in the National Memo: "Rick Scott campaigned for governor on the promise of running Florida like a big business, but the one big business that Florida actually runs is out of control. Citizens Property Insurance Corp. was created a decade ago, supposedly to help residents afford hurricane coverage for their homes. With 1.3 million policyholders, Citizens is the state's largest insurer of property. And it's been managed about as carefully as amateur night at your local strip joint. In fact, that's where one happy Citizens worker liked to use his company credit card." Etc., etc. Thanks to Barbarossa for the link.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Dow Jones industrial average, which measures the performance of 30 blue-chip companies, closed with a gain of more than 125 points Tuesday, surpassing its previous record close of 14,164.53, which it achieved nearly five and a half years ago, a well as its record intraday high, set around the same time, of 14,198.10."

New York Times: "President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela died Tuesday afternoon after a long battle with cancer, the government announced, leaving behind a bitterly divided nation in the grip of a political crisis that grew more acute as he languished for weeks, silent and out of sight in hospitals in Havana and Caracas." ...

New York Times: "Hugo Chávez, who rose from poverty in a dirt-floor adobe house to unrivaled influence in Venezuela as its president, consolidating power and wielding the country's oil reserves as a tool for his Socialist-inspired change, died Tuesday, Vice President Nicolás Maduro said. He was 58."

Reuters: "Cellphone users should be allowed to switch their devices to any mobile carrier, the White House said on Monday in response to an online petition against the recent banning of the practice. More than 100,000 people signed the petition protesting the ban on switching imposed by the Library of Congress, which took effect in January. At issue is whether cellphone buyers, who get new devices at a heavily subsidized price in return for committing to long-term contracts, should be able to take their gadgets with them when they change carriers." CW: so now the Library of Congress is giving gifts to big telecom?

AP: "Los Angeles ... voters have been mostly indifferent about Tuesday's race for mayor. No single issue or candidate has seized their attention, much less their imaginations, in the contest to succeed outgoing Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa. The likely outcome in the heavily Democratic city will send two City Hall regulars, Eric Garcetti, 42, and Wendy Greuel, 51, to a May 21 runoff...."

Al Jazeera: "Syrian rebels battling troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad overran al-Raqqa after days of fierce fighting, and were now in 'near-total control' of the northern city, activists said. The fall of Raqqa, located on the Euphrates River, on Monday is a significant development in the two-year-old revolt against Assad. The rebels do not claim to hold any other provincial capitals. Residents in Raqqa destroyed a statue of late President Hafez al-Assad (Bashar's father), according to amateur video footage distributed by activists." The Guardian has a liveblog. ...

... Washington Post: "As a mass Syrian emigration spills into neighboring countries, relief organizations acknowledge that they can hardly keep up. The exodus is accelerating so quickly that the tally of need will almost certainly hit a grim milestone this week, when the number of Syrian refugees who have registered with the United Nations -- or are on months-long waiting lists to do so -- is expected to hit 1 million."

AP: "The United States and China have reached agreement on a new draft sanctions resolution to punish North Korea for its latest nuclear test, U.N. diplomats said late Monday.... The diplomats ... said the United States is expected to circulate a draft resolution to the full council at [a meeting today]." ...

... CBS News: "North Korea is vowing to cancel the 1953 Korean War cease-fire because of sanctions and ongoing U.S.-South Korean joint military drills."

Guardian: "Kenyans turned out in massive numbers on Monday to vote in a general election described as the most important, and nervously anticipated, in the country's 50-year history."


The Commentariat -- March 4, 2013

Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: The $85 billion in automatic cuts working their way through the federal budget spare many programs that aid the poorest and most vulnerable Americans, including the Children's Health Insurance Program and food stamps. But the sequestration cuts, as they are called, still contain billions of dollars in mandatory budget reductions in programs that help low-income Americans, including one that gives vouchers for housing to the poor and disabled and another that provides fortified baby formula to the children of poor women." ...

... Nelson Schwartz of the New York Times: "With the Dow Jones industrial average flirting with a record high, the split between American workers and the companies that employ them is widening and could worsen in the next few months as federal budget cuts take hold. That gulf helps explain why stock markets are thriving even as the economy is barely growing and unemployment remains stubbornly high. With millions still out of work, companies face little pressure to raise salaries, while productivity gains allow them to increase sales without adding workers. ...

... BUT, hey, Republicans are happy. From the Democratic National Committee:

... You all know this, but this video from Mashable is a fine restatement of the extent of (literally off-the-cart) wealth inequality in the U.S. Thanks to Julie L. for the link:

Obama 2.0. Annie Lowrey: "President Obama plans to nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the president of the Walmart Foundation, as his budget chief, the White House said on Sunday." ...

... Charles Pierce: "Yeah, I'm completely comfortable that she only worked for the 'philanthropic' side of the world's most conspicuous sweatshop-enabler and government-services sinkhole, and now she's going to advise the president on exactly how much austerity he can 'bring to the table.' ..."

... Jeff Mason of Reuters: "President Barack Obama will announce his intent on Monday to nominate air quality expert Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz to head the Department of Energy, a White House official said. McCarthy would likely become the face of Obama's latest push to fight climate change. Currently the assistant administrator for the EPA Office of Air and Radiation, she would replace Lisa Jackson, who has stepped down as EPA chief."

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Reelected with strong support from women, ethnic minorities and gays, [President] Obama is moving quickly to change the face of the federal judiciary by the end of his second term, setting the stage for another series of drawn-out confrontations with Republicans in Congress. The president has named three dozen judicial candidates since January and is expected to nominate scores more over the next few months, aides said. The push marks a significant departure from the sluggish pace of appointments throughout much of his first term.... The new wave of [ethnically & sexually diverse] nominations is part of an effort by Obama to cement a legacy that long outlives his presidency and makes the court system more closely resemble the changing society it governs, administration officials said." The Post has a graphic here, demonstrating the diversity of Obama's new nominees.

Jessica Silver-Greenberg & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "The nation's biggest banks wrongfully foreclosed on more than 700 military members during the housing crisis and seized homes from roughly two dozen other borrowers who were current on their mortgage payments, findings that eclipse earlier estimates of the improper evictions. Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo uncovered the foreclosures while analyzing mortgages as part of a multibillion-dollar settlement deal with federal authorities.... In January, regulators ordered the banks to identify military members and other borrowers who were evicted in violation of federal law."

Reid Epstein of Politico: John "Boehner told NBC's 'Meet the Press' in an interview that aired Sunday the House will vote this week to keep the federal government operating through September, when the fiscal year ends, and avoid a potentially politically damaging shutdown." ...

... Steve Benen: "... the Speaker insisted, "[T]here's no plan from Senate Democrats or the White House to replace the sequester." Host David Gregory explained that the claim is "just not true.' ...

Well, David that's just nonsense. If [President Obama] had a plan, why wouldn't Senate Democrats go ahead and pass it? -- John Boehner, responding to Gregory

      ... "Now, I suppose it's possible that the Speaker of the House doesn't know what a Senate filibuster is.... The facts are not in dispute: Democrats unveiled a compromise measure that required concessions from both sides; the plan enjoyed majority support in the Senate; and Republicans filibustered the proposal."

... Kimberly Kindy & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "Following Boehner on 'Meet the Press,' Gene Sperling, the chairman of Obama's National Economic Council, agreed that it appeared likely the two sides could avoid threatening a shutdown. That would mean the sequester would remain in effect until the end of the fiscal year. But Sperling insisted that Obama will work to undo its cuts in coming months as part of a broader discussion about continued deficit reduction."

I hope that him and I can put this behind us.... -- Gene Sperling, on his dust-up with Bob Woodward. I hope him got better grades in arithmetic than in English; if not, were doomed!

... Charles Pierce on the Sunday shows. ...

... Driftglass on the Sunday shows.

Phillip Rawls of the AP: "The vice president and black leaders commemorating a famous civil rights march on Sunday said efforts to diminish the impact of African-Americans' votes haven't stopped in the years since the 1965 Voting Rights Act added millions to Southern voter rolls. More than 5,000 people followed Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma's annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee. The event commemorates the 'Bloody Sunday' beating of voting rights marchers -- including a young Lewis -- by state troopers as they began a march to Montgomery in March 1965. The 50-mile march prompted Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act that struck down impediments to voting by African-Americans and ended all-white rule in the South." ...

... Mount Rushmore but for Vietnam:

Ezra Klein backs off the thesis of his pollyannish column in which he suggested Democrats & Republicans could make a deal if they only established better communications. "... as long as the GOP's position is they won't compromise, there's not going to be a compromise." CW: Read the whole post, which provides a fascinating illustration of Jonathan Chait's argument that "If Obama could get hold of Klein's mystery legislator, [who said if Obama would only agree to chained CPI, a deal was do-able,] and inform him of his budget offer, it almost certainly wouldn't make a difference. He would come up with something -- the cuts aren't real, or the taxes are awful, or they can't trust Obama to carry them out, or something."

Jake Miller of CBS News: "In a wide-ranging discussion [on Fox "News"], [Mitt Romney] and his wife, Ann Romney, opened up on the reasons for their loss, their adjustment to life after the campaign, and President Obama's leadership since his reelection, making clear that they were disappointed by the loss, but even more disappointed about the direction the country has taken since then. 'Nero is fiddling,' Romney said...." ...

... You can watch the interview here. ...

Caroline Bankoff of New York: "Despite son Tagg's December claim that his father didn't even want to be president, the couple seemed pretty bummed about the outcome of the 2012 election. 'I mourn the fact that he's not [in the White House]," said Ann, who admitted that she still sometimes cries about the loss. "You know, the great Princess Bride line, 'mostly dead?' I'm mostly over it, but not completely. You have moments where you, you know, go back and feel the sorrow of the loss. And so, yes, I think we're not mostly dead yet.' When asked about what it's like to watch Washington from the outside, Mitt responded, "I wish I were there. It kills me to not be there, to not be in the White House doing what needs to be done." Thanks to contributor MAG for the link. ...

... We did very well with the majority population, but not with minority populations, and that was a failing, that was a real mistake.... I think the Obamacare attractiveness and feature was something we underestimated, particularly among lower incomes. And, uh, just didn't do as good a job in connecting with that audience as we should have. -- Mitt Romney, explaining his November loss ...

... Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "During the course of the interview, Romney agreed with [Chris] Wallace that his '47 percent' comment -- his claim that 47 percent of the country will vote for Obama because they are 'dependent upon government' ... -- hurt his campaign.... Nevertheless, the explanation [he gave Sunday for] ... his loss is reminiscent of the explanation he gave his donors for his defeat shortly after the election -- Obama won because of 'the gifts' he gave to African-Americans, Latinos and young voters."

What I said is not what I believe. -- Mitt Romney, on his 47 percent remark ...

... Ouch! Daniel Larison of the American Conservative: "Romney supporters often relied on his record as a famously unprincipled political weather-vane to defend him against any substantive criticism of what he said during the campaign on the grounds that he didn't or couldn't 'really' believe it.... Of course, it never mattered whether Romney 'really' believed what he was saying, because it became clear years ago that he would have said almost anything to win.

I'm happy to blame the media.... It was not just the campaign's fault -- I believe it was the media's fault as well. He was not being given a fair shake. -- Ann Romney, on one reason her husband lost the 2012 election ...

... Problem: The campaign controlled the media's access to the candidate, so blaming them both at the same time is a touch precious.-- Erik Wemple of the Washington Post ...

... Problem: Mitt is an all-around pandering, lying dickhead & Ann is a pompous bee-otch, so blaming them both at the same time seems just about right. -- Constant Weader ...

... Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs: "... can you believe these spoiled whiny multi-millionaires? They lost the election because the American people saw through the pandering to the true Mitt Romney: the rich elitist snob who held them in contempt, and would blatantly lie in his quest for power. With every ungracious word out of their mouths, the Romneys just confirm that this impression was dead on." ...

... Charles Pierce: "The one thing I can say for absolute certainty, after watching Willard Romney try to impersonate a carbon-based life-form for over a year, is that 'people' got as good a look at who he really is as they have of any candidate in the past 20 years. His problem was that he couldn't even fake being a fake well enough."

Paul Krugman: Florida Gov. Rick Scott's support for the Medicaid extension to the Affordable Care Act "came with a condition: he was willing to cover more of the uninsured only after receiving a waiver that would let him run Medicaid through private insurance companies.... This is all about spending taxpayer money.... And despite some feeble claims to the contrary, privatizing Medicaid will end up requiring more, not less, government spending, because there's overwhelming evidence that Medicaid is much cheaper than private insurance.... As long as the spending ends up lining the right pockets, and the undeserving beneficiaries of public largess are politically connected corporations, conservatives with actual power seem to like Big Government just fine."

Steve Rattner, in a New York Times op-ed: "Slapping a catchy acronym like the JOBS Act on a piece of legislation makes it more difficult for politicians to oppose it -- and indeed that's what happened with the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act. Unveiled a year ago by House Republican leaders, the proposal was rushed into law with large majorities just two months later; its provisions are gradually taking effect.... The JOBS Act has little to do with employment; it's a hodgepodge of provisions that together constitute the greatest loosening of securities regulation in modern history.... The largest number of jobs likely to be created by the JOBS Act will be for lawyers needed to clean up the mess that it will create.

John Burns of the New York Times: "Britain's most senior Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, acknowledged Sunday that he had been guilty of sexual misconduct, a week after he announced his resignation and said he would not attend the conclave to choose the next pope. The moves followed revelations that three current and one former priest had accused him of inappropriate sexual contact dating back decades.... Many analysts saw the cardinal's resignation and absence from the conclave as a result of papal pressure, and British newspapers have cited unidentified Vatican officials as saying Pope Benedict -- who stunned the world with his own announcement on Feb. 11 that he would step down -- had ordered the cardinal to remove himself." ...

... There's always been sinners in the church but there's always been saints. -- Cardinal Cormac O'Connor, on O'Brien's hypocrisy. Later, O'Connor said he have forgiven Gene Sperling for him's ungrammatical remark

Local News

Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "Arkansas' GOP-controlled legislature has voted to override their governor's veto of a 'fetal pain' abortion ban, ensuring the legislation will immediately take effect. Gov. Mike Beebe (D) vetoed the measure on Tuesday, explaining he felt the 20-week ban would run afoul of women's constitutional right to an abortion under Roe v. Wade, but Arkansas lawmakers can override the governor with a simple majority in both chambers."

News Ledes

Reuters: "Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday there was 'finite' time for talks between Iran and world powers on its disputed nuclear program to bear fruit, but gave no hint how long Washington may be willing to negotiate. Israel, Iran's arch-enemy and convinced Tehran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, has grown impatient with the protracted talks and has threatened pre-emptive war against Tehran if it deems diplomacy ultimately futile."


Reuters: "Roman Catholic cardinals filed into the Vatican on Monday for preliminary meetings to sketch an identikit for the next pope and ponder who among them might be best to lead a church beset by crises." ...

... AP: "Swarms of locusts have descended on Egypt, raising fears they could spread to Israel ... ahead of the Passover."